OPPOSITION SENATOR Sandrea Falconer has called for an overarching non-discriminatory HIV/AIDS policy.
Falconer argued that the HIV policy which now addresses the public-health issue in the workplace should go further to deal with non-discrimination in social spaces.
“We need to look at how persons with HIV/AIDS are discriminated against in places of public accommodation. We have to put in place a policy that they cannot deny goods or service to persons who they believe are living with HIV/AIDS,” Falconer said.
The opposition senator was making her contribution to the debate on the national workforce policy on HIV/AIDS in the Senate yesterday.
A parliamenrary committee examined the policy and submitted a report, which the Senate debated.
Leader of Government Business Dorothy Lightbourne, who piloted the policy, told the Senate that addressing the epidemic as a “workplace issue is critical to the advancement of our country in the 21st century”.
Her government colleague, Dwight Nelson, agreed that the issue must be dealt with systematically and urgently and also sided with Falconer about the need for a more overarching HIV/AIDS policy.
“I think this report falls a little short in terms of the scope of its coverage, and any national policy ought to incorporate the various sectors and the peculiarity of the sectors that are affected by the deficiency that it seeks to correct,” Nelson said.
He argued that the report should have had input from the agriculture sector, especially in light of an International Labour Organisation report which indicates that 16 million persons in the sector would be affected by HIV/AIDS.
“Agriculture is one of the growth industries and we have to protect that. HIV/AIDS is one of the devastating diseases that affects labour supply, productivity and economic growth,” Nelson said.
The national workforce policy on HIV/AIDS report has already been adopted by the House of Representatives. The Senate embraced it yesterday.
Among the key recommendations are the drafting of regulations that would make it illegal for employers to subject employees or potential employees to mandatory HIV testing.
It also recommends workers’ HIV status be kept private and that a targeted public-education programme be undertaken.
Health Minister Rudyard Spencer and Parliamentary Secretary Aundre Franklin were missing from nearly all of the committee meetings where the policy was discussed.
Spencer and Franklin missed six of the seven meetings of the committee and neither has apologised for being missing in action.
Labour Minister Pearnel Charles, who chaired the committee, attended all seven meetings, while Dr. Fenron Ferguson, opposition spokesman on health, missed one meeting.
Story was originally printed in the Gleaner.